Question 1

I have never used tide pods. I have always preferred to use basic powdered detergents in my laundry and I have never really considered using any other product. Three patents are listed in relation to tide pods. Humberto Garcia-Ruiz and Richard Paul McNabb filed the first patent (US D7665638 B2) on 28 October 2005 and the government issued it to them on 23 February 2010 for packaged liquid laundry compositions. Garcia-Ruiz filed the second patent (US D542140) in July 2005 and the process was completed in May 2007. This was a design patent of a bottle and a cap. Garcia-Ruiz applied for the other patent (US D543861) in July 2005 and he received the patent in June 2007. The patent was for a bottle design. Sun Products Corporation owns the patent for the liquid laundry agent, while Conopco Inc owns the remaining two patents. One way to go around the design of the patents is to come up with a different container to hold the detergent, such as a jar, which has the same shape but comes with a handle to differentiate it from the patented bottle. Another way to go around the patent is to replace the cap with something that serves the same purpose but is of a different nature. For example, a nozzle could substitute the cap.

US D 542140 (Bottle with cap)


US D543861 (Bottle)


Question 2

The patent chosen was filed on 2 December 1999 by Ross Eugene Long III and was issued on 26 March 2002. The patent number is US6360693 and the item is called Animal toy. The patent describes an apparatus for use as a toy by an animal, such as a dog, to fetch, carry or chew. It includes a main section with a protrusion extending from it to make the apparatus look like a branch. The manufacturer can use a variety of materials to make the toy. I picked this patent because I find the idea to be rather silly as the item described is essentially a fancy stick. I find the item to be obvious and so the government should not consider it an innovation. The state should not have issued the patent because it failed to meet the criterion of being unobvious. One reason why the government was right to issue the patent is that some aspects of the item were innovative such as the idea of having the stick coated with fluorescent material so it can glow in the dark.

US6360693 (Animal Toy)

Question 3

A trade secret is a piece of confidential business information that gives a firm a competitive edge over its rivals. Trade secrets usually include manufacturing secrets. A patent is a property right granted by the government to an inventor to make sure that other parties do not create, use or sell similar products. A copyright is a form of protection granted to people who have come up with “original works of authorship”. Copyrights give the owners of the work the exclusive rights to reproduce, create derivative works and to distribute their creations. Copyrights only protect the actual work of the owner and not the subject matter. Filers of patents, copyrights and trade secrets use them to protect intellectual property so that the creators of those items are the only ones able to claim ownership. However, the items protected and the duration of protection varies for all three. Patents only make sure that other people do not reproduce or distribute a person’s inventions. Copyrights ensure that other parties do not reproduce original work without the author’s consent. Trade secrets protect secrets of a commercial value. The state guards trade secrets for an indefinite amount of time while copyrights and patents have limitations on the duration of protection. The US government protects patents for twenty years but this protection may cease if the owner stops paying maintenance fees. The length of copyright protection varies depending on the author or type of work. However, most works are protected for the life of the author plus an additional 50 years. Copyrights do not require any payments from the owner. Patents involve two payments. A registration fee that the owner pays when filing the patent and a maintenance fee that is paid to ensure the government continues to protect the patent. Trade secrets do not have registration fees but parties involved have to pay large fees to keep the secret safe.

Question 4

The government issues utility patents to persons who have come up with new and useful processes, machines and compositions of matter among other things. The patent prevents other persons from making, selling or using the invention, without the permission of the owner, for twenty years. Persons protecting their inventions with this patent have to pay maintenance fees for the duration of the patent along with issue fees and publication fees when registering the patent. An example of a utility patent is patent number US6360693 that was filed by Ross Eugene Long III to protect an animal toy.

Design patent protects new and original ornamental designs in articles of manufacture. It allows the owner of the patent to prevent other parties from reproducing, using and selling the design. These patents last for fourteen years and are not subject to any fees. In most cases, inventors file design and utility patents together for products that are entirely new. However, if the design is for a product that already exists then only a design patent is necessary. An example of a design patent is US D542140 that was filed by Humberto Garcia-Ruiz to protect his bottle and cap design

Plant patents protect new, asexually reproduced plants. The person who has invented or discovered the plants usually files the patent to prevent other entities from making, using or distributing the plants for twenty years. Plant patents are not subject to any fees. A good example is a patent that Winchel Joseph filed on 23 April 1979 that is numbered PP04620.

Question 5

The government should allow universities to keep generating patents. State universities produce these patents by working hard through their research departments. This research can provide the students with a chance to learn new things. Faculty members can also benefit from the patent generation process as they further the knowledge that they already. The universities should be the ones benefitting from the patents that they generate. Firstly, this could act as a reward for the institutions for their efforts and innovation. It could also be an incentive, with more campuses trying to generate useful patents so that they can also enjoy the rewards. Universities should also benefit from their patents because the effort and time put into generating the patent came from them. It would be unfair to deny them the fruits of their work by giving the benefits to the taxpayers.

Question 6

The Leah-Smithy America Invents Act made two key changes to the patent filing process. Firstly, the core process was changed from first to invent to first to file. This means that the federal government will be granting patents to the first person who files them without allowing other parties who claim to have invented the product to challenge the patent. The second change to the patent process removed interference proceedings. These are court proceeding that an aggrieved party initiates when they feel that a party has filed a patent of a product that they invented and so the patent registration process should be stopped. Critics of this new system allege that it will allow larger companies with financial strength to steal inventions from smaller companies or from individuals who lack the ability to finance their own projects. Additionally, this new system will scare inventors and stop them from sharing their ideas with potential partners or financiers in fear of having the products stolen. The tide pod patents were filed before the Leah-Smithy act. This can be seen from the dates on the patents. President Obama signed the act in 2011 while the government issued all patents involved used in the tide pods between 2007 and 2010.


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